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Leadership students ready to serve communities


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Leaders from throughout Johnson County have spent the past five months working on ways to improve their communities.

Some have been focused on helping a local women’s sanctuary create a shelter house and stock its food pantry. Others have envisioned a pet show for children that will benefit dogs and cats without homes.

Increasing youth volunteerism and building life skills for the underprivileged also has been a focus.

As this year’s class of Leadership Johnson County nears graduation, members are putting the finishing touches on the projects they’ve worked all year on. The program is celebrating its 20th year in training new generations of leaders, teaching people all of the ways they can make Johnson County better.

“It’s always important for leaders to continue to grow, whether you’re a leader in your home as a stay-at-home mom or leading an organization such as a hospital or school district,” said Kate Taylor, assistant director of Leadership Johnson County. “Sometimes you get so busy you don’t take that time. Leadership Johnson County is a great opportunity to do that.”

Leadership Johnson County is an organization that works to train new leaders and impact meaningful change in the community.

The program was founded in 1995 after area residents expressed concern about the direction local agencies, government and business would go in the future.

The class meets once a month, focusing on a different aspect of leadership each time. Participants learn how to lead meetings, to identify the best people to help with a particular job and how to organize a team.

One of the requirements of the program is to break into small groups and pick a community project.

“We strive to help educate people about issues going on in the community and how they can plug in to solve those problems,” Taylor said.

One group, People for Paws, is planning a pet fashion show and competition for area youth. The event will take place in the spring and bring together local veterinarians, pet groomers and pet shops to advocate for healthy pets. All of the proceeds would benefit the Humane Society of Johnson County.

Another group chose to involve young people in a different way. Youth for a Better Tomorrow will gather kids and teens from around the county for a day of service March 1.

The idea was to bridge youths looking to help in their community and local agencies such as the Lord’s Locker and Gateway Services that needed help, Taylor said.

“They had heard from people around the area that kids want to volunteer, and clearly the organizations need people to help. But there was a disconnect between the two,” she said.

Haven’s Angels gathered together to help a Greenwood-based organization, Haven Sanctuary for Women. The nonprofit group helps young, single and homeless mothers with education, job training and a place to stay.

The organization recently was gifted the use of a home on Emerson Avenue for five years. Haven’s Angels have pledged to help turn it into a functioning shelter. Leadership members have spent time cleaning and painting the house and plan to help install landscaping and repair the outdoor deck as well.

Haven’s Angels also planned an open house event that brought in food for the shelter’s pantry, Taylor said.

Another Leadership Johnson County project, Third Time’s a Charm, hopes to help individuals struggling to transition out of poverty by providing life skills workbooks.

The workbooks will teach about simple budgeting, telephone ettiquette, appropriate dress for a job interview and general safety tips.

Once finished, the books can

be distributed by area social agencies to needy people, Taylor said. An online version also will be available.

“We have a really fun group this year, with a lot of energy,” Taylor said. “It’s exciting to be celebrating 20 years of doing this, so we’ve had a lot of alumni who have re-engaged to help this year.”

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